Friday, June 1, 2012

Over the Pyrenees by Train and on to Bordeaux

What a full day! When I was planning my trip, I found a refence on the Internet to a scenic train ride through the Pyrrenes from Barcelona to Toulouse. The journey is via regional trains - a milk run and is comprised of a Spanish train from Barcelona to Latour de Carol then a French train from there to Toulouse. Spain has a different gauge rail than the rest of Europe so you actually do have to change trains when you leave the country.

It would be the first day's use of my 7 day Eurorail pass. While the fare is apparently not a lot, there is an added benefit when using the Eurorail pass that you don't have to line up to buy tickets. You do need to buy a "reservation" on some of the trains and the price varies. (see note below on Using a Eurorail pass.)

My train was scheduled to leave at 9:30, so being my usual "early rather than late" self, I set off for the train station at 7:30, having been told it was a 15 minute journey by metro. I must say that Barcelona has an excellent subway system, with routes going every which way. From the Universitat station it was three stops to a change from the red line to the green line and then two stops along the green line to the Sants Estation stop - easy peasy! I had enough time to grab a bit of breakfast and stock up on some food for the trip and was waiting at the disparture display in plenty of time to see that train which was leaving from track 8.

I was amazed at how many trains were leaving from track 8 in the short while until my train left. The Sants train station is in the centre of Barcelona and I started to draw parallels with Toronto's Union station during the inbound commute by office workers into the centre of the city. Outbound travelers on regular trains must be similarly bewildered. In the 15 minutes I sat waiting at track 8 I saw 7 trains arrive.

At 2 minutes after my train was supposed to depart I started to get worried. I asked a man who was waiting also and he just shrugged, but all was well when a few minutes later a train labelled with my destination pulled into the station. It was a small commuter style train and I had to run up to the centre of the platform to get on because it only had a few cars. The train stopped for no more than 2 minutes and off we were!

When I got myself settled I noticed that an oriental lady was chatting with someone asking about the train being late. The woman replied "Spanish trains are always late!". Apparently the folks at the information booth had given the woman a print out showing a departure time of 9:33 when it was already 9:37! Anyway, the three of us - Gemma, Soon and myself, had a great chat for a good hour or so until we got to the Vic station where Gemma was heading to stay with family for the week end. Her parting words were that the train trip was usually so boring she was so glad to have had such good company of woman travellers to chat with.

We continued on up and through the mountains until we reached the small village of Latour de Carol where we were to have changed trains after a layover of an hour - now only a half hour due to the late start.


After some wait on the train we were advised that the train was malfunctioning and that we would be bussed forward to the next stop, but it would be an hour before the bus would arrive. Soon and I wandered through the small village in 10 minutes and when we got back the bus was there. We all piled in and the bus left immediately. I am not sure if anyone actually went on a longer walk and got left behind.

When we bused into the next stop and boarded the train that was waiting there we discovered that the passengers there had been waiting for us for an hour. Two stops down the line they removed the car we were in and we had to squeeze into the few cars that were left. I guess it had to go back to the Latour stop and pull the other cars out of the station. There were still two hours of small town stops left in the journey and by the time we arrived in Toulouse it was a very packed train full of late people.

No big worry for me though because I had a 2 hour window to the connection to Bordeaux which left at 6:46, so I had just enough time to secure my reservation on the TVG and eat last night's leftover pizza, followed by a French pastry and espresso to celebrate my arrival in France!

The TVG is a fast train and it only 2 hours to Bordeaux - no milk run! I thanked my intuition to get a 1st class ticket as the seats are very comfy, there is a table which helps with typing my blog and even a plug so that I can charge my iPad as I type. So I was able two catch up on my blogs (offline text part that is) while I travelled.

Once I reach my hotel in Bordeaux I will upload the two new blogs and pictures before bed. Tomorrow is a big day - wine tasting and chateau tours! I have splurged on a nice hotel for the next two days, at least judging by the price. We shall see. After my Peregrino days it doesn't take much to define luxury for me.

I am including a few of the wonderful Bordeaux night scenes I shot tonight.

Note re Eurorail Passes: I am not sure if I will be saving anything or much by buying the pass, but I plan to sum up the individual fare prices plus reservation costs and see if there is saving. There are 7 days of train travel in my itinerary however depending on which trains you take there are reservation costs in addition to the Eurorail pass costs to be considered. Today I paid 6 € for the reservation on the Toulouse-Bordeaux route - 1st class but the 2nd class reservation cost was 18 €. I did the reservation for the Bordeaux-Paris trip on Sunday via Internet before I left and as I recall the reservation fee was not cheap! So we will see whether I get more than the cost 589 CAD in value from the pass.

1 comment:

  1. Peggy, thank you for posting this wonderfully detailed description. Just what we needed to read as we will be boarding the Sants to Latour train later this morning!

    Best wishes from Ian and Barbara (from Canberra, Australia)